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Mark A. Little v. Leroy Baca

February 1, 2013

MARK A. LITTLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LEROY BACA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ralph Zarefsky United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

The pro se and in forma pauperis plaintiff commenced this civil rights action on January 29, 2013. After suffering an attack by jail gang members who mistakenly believed Plaintiff was a "snitch," Plaintiff alleges, his complaints to jail officials resulted in months of indifference and retaliatory abuse. Due to the extreme and unnecessary length of the complaint, including its incorporated supporting materials, and other pleading flaws, the Court will dismiss the complaint with leave to amend.

I.

THE COMPLAINT IS NOT "SHORT AND PLAIN"

A. The Court's Obligation To Screen In Forma Pauperis Complaints

The Court must screen all complaints, including Plaintiff's, brought in forma pauperis. See Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (screening of in forma pauperis actions generally). The law requires this Court to"dismiss the case if at any time it determines that . . . the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

B. Applicable Law: Rule 8 Requires "Short And Plain" Pleading

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that "[a] pleading which sets forth a claim for relief . . . shall contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "A claim is the 'aggregate of operative facts which give rise to a right enforceable in the courts.'" Bautista v. Los Angeles County, 216 F.3d 837, 840 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Original Ballet Russe, Ltd. v. Ballet Theatre, Inc., 133 F.2d 187, 189 (2d Cir. 1943)). To comply with the Rule, a plaintiff must plead a short and plain statement of the elements of his or her claim, "identifying the transaction or occurrence giving rise to the claim and the elements of a prima facie case," which elements, of course, will vary depending on the species of claim being asserted. See Bautista, 216 F.3d at 840.

Here, the complaint -- which is only nine pages in and of itself, but which repeatedly incorporates by reference hundreds of pages of briefs and exhibits -- is so lengthy and given over to tangents, minute details, matters that are self-evidently opinion, speechifying and other clutter that it is neither "short" nor "plain." It also appears to blame virtually everyone with whom Plaintiff came into contact, and several with whom he did not, in the wake of his injuries at the hands of three prison gang members. As Circuit Judge Arthur Alarcon once admonished when, sitting by designation, he dismissed another pro se civil-rights action with leave to amend:

Any amended complaint must show that the federal court has jurisdiction and that plaintiff's action is brought in the right place, that plaintiff is entitled to relief if plaintiff's allegations are true, and must contain a request for particular relief. Plaintiff must identify as a defendant only persons who personally participated in a substantial way in depriving plaintiff of a federal constitutional right. Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978) (a person subjects another to the deprivation of a constitutional right if he does an act, participates in another's act or omits to perform an act he is legally required to do that causes the alleged deprivation). If plaintiff contends he was the victim of a conspiracy, he must identify the participants and allege their agreement to deprive him of a specific federal constitutional right.

Plaintiff's claims must be set forth in short and plain terms, simply, concisely and directly. See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002) ("Rule 8(a) is the starting point of a simplified pleading system, which was adopted to focus litigation on the merits of a claim."); FED. R. CIV. P. 8.

Plaintiff must eliminate from plaintiff's pleading all preambles, introductions, argument, speeches, explanations, stories, griping, vouching, evidence, attempts to negate possible defenses, summaries, and the like. McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1180 (9th Cir. 1996) (affirming dismissal of § 1983 complaint for violation of Rule 8 after warning); see Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 597, 118 S.Ct. 1584, 140 L.Ed.2d 759 (1998) (reiterating that "firm application of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is fully warranted" in prisoner cases).

A district court must construe pro se pleading "liberally" to determine if it states a claim and, prior to dismissal, tell a plaintiff of deficiencies in his complaint and give a plaintiff an opportunity to cure them. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000). However, the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the compliant are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, __ U.S. __, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007) (citations omitted).

The court (and any defendant) should be able to read and understand Plaintiff's pleading within minutes. McHenry, 84 F.3d at 1177. A long, rambling pleading, including many defendants with unexplained, tenuous or implausible connection to the alleged constitutional injury or joining a series of unrelated claims against many defendants very likely will result in delaying the review required by 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915 and ...


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